Messing With The Formula …Again.

The Tuesday night Meetup has been the cornerstone of the Ventura County Strategy Baordgamers for over seven years.  It has always had a solid attendance count. For several years it was regularily hitting, or exceeding, our maximum limit of 35 attendees.

Tuesday night attendance has been lower than normal since the start time was changed from 6:30pm to 6:00pm. I touched on this issue in a previous post entitled Don’t Mess With The Formula. In an attempt to help those who had trouble getting to Tuesday night on time we tried a delayed start. People would delay starting a longer game so that others could arrive. It seemed fine in practice. It works on a Moday night. It did not work on a Tuesday night. The big difference is that on Monday nights we have a smaller crowd. Mondays night also has a more casual vibe.

The delayed start idea did not help to regain the numbers on Tuesday’s. in fact the attendance went lower. It was obvious that people have moved away from the area. Regular attendees were also not so regular. The start time is keeping a number of people away. It is hard for people to travel, and eat, before the fun and games starts. The extra 30 minutes is key. It is time to give folks the leeway that those extra 30 minutes provide.

From Tuesday, June the 26th 2018, I will be moving the Tuesday start time to 6:30pm. The end time will still be 10:30pm.

 

Two Cons, 500 Miles, 12 Games And One Prang

Last Saturday was end of three busy days of traveling and gaming. First was the twice-yearly GMT West – Weekend At The Warehouse, that was followed by the annual TableTopDOG gaming event on International Table Top Day.

GMT West April 2018

GMT West aka Weekend At The Warehouse is a four day, Thursday to Sunday, event held every six months at the GMT Games warehouse in California central valley. Up to 100 gamers get to play all types of game in the middle of a warehouse full of games. There are also new, as yet unpublished games, and their designers in attendance.

Over 3 days I only played a total of 6 games. The unusual thing was that I did not play a single game that was published by GMT Games. Many people are surprised that we go and take over a game company’s warehouse and we don’t have to play their games. All types of games are played: euros, team games, 18XX, monster wargames, and more wargames. If you look at the pictures albums posted below you will see all types of games were played. It should be no surprise that the most common games played are historical wargames. Most of these are also games published by GMT Games.

After arriving in early afternoon there were already many games in progress. There is a customary period of reconnaissance and re-connection immediately after arriving. Here are gamers who you may only see twice a year. Gamers have come from all over the USA, and from further afield too. After a wander, and lots of hello’s, it was time to push some cardboard around a map.

My first game played was a new release by Compass Games aka Red Poppies Campaigns: Last Laurels at Limanowa. Yup, another game on WW1. Myself and Karl K. setup Scenario 2. I was the attacking Russians. Karl was the defending Austro-Hungarians. We had previously played the first volume in the series: Red Poppies Campaigns: The battle for Ypres a few times before. The first thing we noticed was that elevation was more important in this single map game. The terrain was predominately hills with a scattering of woods. Lots of hills. As this volume is set in late 1914 it also means that there are no trenches on the map. If you ever want to comprehend why they dug trenches in ww1 then simply play the 1914 era scenarios in this series of games. You need cover. It was a tense game and a lot of fun too. Karl won the game despite the best efforts of my Cossacks. Bloomin’ Cavalry.

Friday was my only full day at this GMT West. I noticed that John Company was being played and Steve C. was going to run teaching games at 10am and 4pm. I first committed to the 4pm game, then changed to 10am knowing it would be a long and involved teaching process. Steve was happy to simply teach the 6 players who volunteered to play this economical/expand/embezzle game on the Easy India Company. Steve had declared that it was tough game to teach. He was not wrong. The individual game mechanics are simple. The game has lots of moving parts, and lots of subtle interconnections. Despite the best efforts of Chairman Brandon to fail the company we prospered for a while. Overall it was a fun, thematic, and tight game. The dice do play a part in the story it weaves. There might be too much dice luck for those who don’t like the fickleness of dice in their games. I still like it. Thanks to Steve to teaching the game. I went on to both teach and play John Company again the following Tuesday.

The Great War card game
Example cards from The Great War card game

One of the guests in attendance was game designer and historian Dana Lombardy. Among other things he was demoing a WW1 themed card game. Two regular decks of cards that have a trick taking game built into the cards. Dana gave me the run through on the rules and we went at it. It was a close game with bluff, deception, and brute force. Perhaps fittingly the game ended in a draw with Dana ahead by 74 to 69 points. It’s a fast playing game with lots of history on the cards. It was good to chat with Dana too. Streets of Stalingrad was a fave game of mine.

Mike Tan (left) and Dana Lombardy
Mike Tan (left) and Dana Lombardy. The game is Sturm Europa! designed by Mike.

Next was two games of The Cousins’ War by Surprised Stare Games. This one of the small format micro-games that has been a big hit for me over the last year. It plays in less than 30 minutes and has more than enough meaningful choices to make it worthwhile. It has bluffing too. Robert O. has a few minutes to spare, while waiting for his missus, so I taught him the game. Immediately after Dave T. showed up and I taught it again. He had recently bought the game so it was an opportune time for him to learn. This was a cracker of a game that came down to the last battle on the last turn. Whoever won the battle would win the war. I lost. Dice hate me, but in a fun way! Well done to Dave.

My last game of Thursday was Atlantic Chase by local-ish (Santa Barbara area) designer Jerry White. He had first demoed the game last October. This time I sat down to play for the first time. We played the ‘Bremen’ scenario. This is an excellent short scenario to learn about trajectories and searching. I took on the role of the Royal Navy commander versus Doug S. and his elusive cruiser liner SMS Bremen.  The SMS Bremen is attempting to get back to Germany on the eve of ww2. It is a quick scenario with some sneaky options for the German player. Unfortunately, I was both sneaky and lucky. I launched 4 task forces to scour the Atlantic. After successfully finding and detaining the SMS Bremen, without shots fired,  we reset the game for the next two players. This game went differently for the Royal Navy. Using the cruiser Graf Spee as a decoy the SMS Bremen made it safely to Germany.  This is another innovative and well designed game by Jerry. He is a very smart and a very likable chap. Check out his games.

This is one of my favorite scenes from this event. It sums up GMT West for me. A whole group of gamers gathered around having fun playing a game. Most of these gamer also happen to be game designers. The game is Tank Duel by Mike Bertucelli. That is Mike in the blue t-shirt in the left foreground.

Can you name all of the game designers in the pics?

If you want to see more pics of this April GMT West; here are more pics in Google Photo Albums from Thursday, Friday, and Saturday respectively.

Due to my prior commitment to TableTopDOG I had to leave GMT West late in Saturday morning. The fun and frolics continued had to continue without me.

GMT West


Saturday the 28th also marked International Table Top Day. April-Lyn had kindly offered to host our Meetup group event in Ventura.  Thus was held TableTopDOG 2018. This was the 5th year we had held an open and free day of gaming event on Table Top Day. Hence our DOG title for Day Of Gaming. No dogs were allowed, unfortunately.

TableTop DOG
The poster for TableTop DOG 2018

TableTopDOG 2018 was already jamming along by the time I arrived in the mid afternoon. Just as I settled down to learn the new-to-me game Whistle Stop a few newcomers arrived.  After several hours in the car I was okay with teaching some newbies some games that I already knew inside and out. The next few hours was spent teaching fun and enjoyable games to both new and experienced gamers. I ended up playing as many games in a few hours as I had in the previous days at GMT West.

Serge destroyed me at Azul, no shock there. Christieann beat my score too. Cool. My winning streak is done. I need to up my game!

One highlight of TableTopDOG was the game raffle. Group members had kindly donated, new and gently used, games for a prize raffle. Those who attend get raffle tickets for both taking part in the days activities and for teaching games etc.

The games played included: Dungeon Lords, Whistle Stop, Azul (x a lot), Qwixx (x2), Tsuro, Rhino Hero, Zombie Dice, Speed, Rising Sun, Castles of Burgundy, Dinosaur Island, Terraforming Mars (x 3), Photosynthesis, The Opulent, Santorini, Sushi Go, Win Lose or Banana, Power Grid, Dixit, 6 Nimmt (x2), Vast: The Crystal Caverns, Kodama: The Tree Spirits, Lords of Waterdeep (x2), Tiny Epic Quest, Dice Throne, Start Player, Scattergories, Delphi, Kingsburg, Fallout, Red7, Loonacy, Nyet!, Fuse, Wildcatters, Secret Hitler, and Indulgence.

As can be seen from the list it was a full and busy day of gaming. It was hard to estimate the total number of people who attended. I counted over 30 and I arrived late. People had already come and gone. After putting some heads together we estimate in the region of 40-50 people attended our 5th annual TableTopDOG. Woof!


The final act of the Saturday was a minor car accident when my gf and myself went off to get Jamba Juice. Her car got the worst of it and is now being repaired.  The important thing was that no one was hurt. Not a good end to an otherwise great few days.

Tim
4th May 2018

P.S.: FYI, it was not quite 500 miles of traveling, but it was close enough.
P.P.S: So I did play a GMT game at GMT West. It just has not been published yet.

Silly Board Game Memes

It is only natural that the board gaming hobby annoys me at times. In an attempt to vent, and to poke fun, at the hobby that I hold so dear I have created a number of Silly Board Game Memes. They are to entertain and to annoy people a little too. These are just a product of my over active brain mulling over the quirks and idiosyncrasies of the games that I love and the people who enjoy them.

Silly Board Game Memes

Board game genres and stereotypes

I have a bunch to add to the page… too many. Check back again soon.

Tim

27th March 2018

One Last Hurrah

The last Hurrah for Chris Rollins

Young scamp Chris Rollins is leaving the land of endless summer for the fair city of Boston. Over the past 4 years Chris has graced us with his presence almost 200 times. He has been airlocked in Battlestar Galactica and he has hunted the Rebels in Star Wars Rebellion.

Join us for a session of gaming, and the odd adult beverage or two, to say farewell to the young lad. This may or may not involve Chris getting brigged or airlocked multiple times.

Kindly gather at McGregors craft bar in Moorpark on Saturday, the 7th of April, 2018 from 2pm – 10pm.

Please RSVP on Meetup or on Facebook. We need to let the venue know how many we expect. Kindly let us know if you simply plan on popping in to pay your regards or if you plan to stay for a while.

Tim

27th March 2018

Why I play Board Games!

Tuesday was my third gaming session in four days. Each of these gaming sessions had it’s own personality. This personality is based on the location, the games, and most of all it is based on the people involved. People are what make board games fun.

This post is about a few of the people whom I game with.

Saturday was a regular get together at Game Empire with my wargamer mates; the SoCal Wargamers. We played a bunch of games, both old and new. After some games new to us: South China Sea, and Chile 73, it was not surprising that we next played a game that felt like a old comfy pair of slippers. Like a lot of gaming groups we do like to play new games, yet we also have our old standards that we can quickly jump into. One of these standards is Napoleonic Wars by GMT Games. This game is fondly known as Nappy Wars. It is a 2-5 player strategic card-driven game on the Napoleonic Wars from 1804 to 1815.

 

One of our regular Nappy Wars players is Greg Ticer. Among other things, Greg has given us a better understanding of how to play Nappy Wars. A game that I have played at least 30-40 times. This is because Greg has designed a game of his own, called The Seven Years War: Frederick’s Gamble, that is loosely based on Nappy Wars. In the process of adapting the Nappy Wars system it meant that Greg had to gain a full understanding of the rules. In the process Greg had found that we have been playing the game slightly wrong for.. well, for always. Oops. Thanks for pointing that out Greg!

Myself, Greg, Karl, Luis, and James
Myself, Greg, Karl, Luis, and James. Game Empire, Pasadena. 17th March 2018

Sadly, Greg will soon be moving to Texas. That Saturday was probably our last gaming session with Greg for a while. We have shared many fun times with Greg. He is always a serious gamer, yet he has a jovial side. Here are some pics that show his jovial nature. He had ordered the large burrito at a local Mexican cantina while we were at SDHIST Con 2016 in San Diego. The burrito was somewhat larger than anyone expected. It was so big that it overlapped the plate on both sides. Greg’s face is an absolute picture as he contemplated the behemoth that he was about to consume. He barely made a dent in the monster, and could not give the rest away. That was a lot of burrito for 10 bucks.

So we give our best wishes to Greg on his new adventures. May the dice roll high or low as appropriate. We hope to game with you again soon.

{shill} Check out Greg’s game, entitled The Seven Years War: Frederick’s Gamble. The game is on P500 preorder by publisher GMT Games. I wish Greg had stuck with the original title that I suggested aka “Greg’s Awesome Sauce 7 Years War Game“. That’s a snappy title, don’t you think? {end shill}


Monday night was at McGregors, in Moorpark. This weekly event has been going from strength to strength since it was first started just over 6 months ago. The core of the attendees on these Monday nights are old time VCSB regulars that I have known for years. It may take some time to get the word out to the locals so you have to persevere. The expectation, when launching a new event in a new area, is that we get some new locals to sign up.  A new event takes some time to get enough momentum to be self sustaining. It is a definite help when some of these new local people become regular attendees. It was good to meet Paul. Paul is a Moorpark local who quickly became a regular attendee.  Recently it has become clear that Paul has a game-crush. He has become smitten with a game about Vikings, namely Raiders Of The North Sea.

Raiders Of The North Sea box
Raiders Of The North Sea box

Don’t get me wrong. Paul is not the first gamer who has been smitten by a game. I have seen many a gamer fixated on a game. Some would jokingly point out my fixation with Battlestar Galactica. There will be more on BSG later.

What is great about this fixation is there is a genuine passion for a well crafted game. A game that both intrigues and entertains the player. A key element in spreading the joy of modern board games is to have genuine enthusiasm for the games. Genuine enthusiasm shows through and draws in the other players. It is great to see that enthusiasm in Paul. Well done that man.


A recent newcomer to the VCSB group, and to modern board games as well, is Brook. As the group organizer I act as gate keeper for the newcomers. I do my utmost to ensure that newcomers feel welcome. I also ensure the newcomers get into appropriate games, and by appropriate I mean that I try to gauge the persons game knowledge, interests, and their abilities to ensure they don’t get placed in a game that is a poor choice for them. Letting the person know the expected duration of a game, or how complicated it is, is only fair in case that does not suit them. On the odd occasion I have strongly suggested that a player should not play a specific game, as the game would not suit them. Over a few events you can begin to determine the newcomers likes, dislikes, and limitations. Now Brook has lapped up every game that has been thrown at him. From simple party games through to complicated strategy games he has taken them all in his stride.

I recently revisited the first edition of the game London. This game took a few plays before I got the game.  Others experienced gamers have struggled to play the game well in the first attempt. Brook, on the other hand, demolished us in his first play. On Monday night Brook expressed an interest in learning to play Battlestar Galactica.

London
London (1st Edition) box cover

For the last few weeks we have held the Tuesday Night VCSB Meetup at Ted’s house in Newbury Park. We are limited to a maximum of 24 while at Ted’s place. There is just not enough space to cram in more people without being overcrowded. We have even had to turn people away; which is something that I hate to do. Having a smaller attendance means it is harder to get the 5 players that is optimal for a game of BSG (Battlestar Galactica). Luckily there was fresh meat Brook who wanted to learn the game. Mwwhhhaaa. We had a fresh victim for the airlock. So Say We All.

BSG is not an easy game to explain, nor is it an quick and easy game to learn. Experienced players tend to have low expectations of new players. You can see where this is going. Early in the game there was a Skill Check that was obviously sabotaged by a unrevealed cylon. More importantly, it was not sabotaged by me, and I was the other unrevealed cylon. Although I had played a card into the Skill Check I could prove it was not sabotaged by me. Human Eric helpfully backed up my story. It was now that the game took an interesting course. Experienced players Chris, and Dodgy John, immediately started to blame each other. Each were convinced the other was the cylon who had sabotaged the Skill Check. I was not sure which one of them was on my side, I was quite convinced it was one of those two. Our deliberations were so passionate that we were told to keep the noise down. The game effectively stopped for 10 minutes while people argued back and forth. Then fate intervened and I got thrown in the brig under the premise that I could have determined who the cylon was, and I did not do so. Later in the game it was clear that both John and Chris were human, along with the innocent Eric. For a while the table was convinced that I was the lone cylon. In fact, I was not alone. It was Brook who had sabotaged the Skill Check. No one had suspected him. Not even me. Inexperienced players are never so sneaky, so quickly.  How he kept a straight face through all of this, I do not know. Well done Brook.

 

My last game of the night was The Mind. A game that is not yet released in the USA. Here two people, both I have known for ten or more years, come into play. First, Jennifer posted that she thought The Mind was the stupidest game ever. This brash statement meant that Jonathon had to check the game out for himself. As the game is not yet available he had to concoct a version using the cards from another game.

The Mind is a co-operative game. A co-operative game where you cannot communicate with your fellow players. A game where the players do not take turns playing the cards.

It is a stupid game.

It is a fun and stupid game.

It is a fun and stupid game, where we had four grown men grunting, wincing, and laughing at each other. We played The Mind twice. We lost twice. That did not matter as we had fun. Thanks to Jonathon for introducing me to a stupid game.

Games are fun. Games are more fun with people. Games are more fun because of people. Enjoy the games, enjoy the clever mechanics, enjoy the story the game creates, enjoy the game art, and enjoy the time spent with people.

Tim

22nd March 2018